Post-Cold War Identity Politics: Northern and Baltic Experiences

By Marko Lehti; David J.Smith | Go to book overview

2

Nordic Near Abroad or New Northern Europe? Perspectives on Post-Cold War Regional Co-operation in the Baltic Sea Area

DAVID J.SMITH

The partition of Europe is a thing of the past. The political and economic geography has been changed. Co-operation and dialogue are the key concepts of the 90s. Regional co-operation, which cuts across the previous divide between East and West, is of particular importance. It contributes to European integration and greater stability. (Uffe Ellemann-Jensen, Danish minister for foreign affairs at the first ministerial session of the Council of the Baltic Sea States, Copenhagen, March 1992) 1

Talk of bridging East and West has been a recurrent feature of the various region-building projects that have emerged in northern Europe over the past decade. Uffe Ellemann-Jensen's statement from 1992, for instance, would be equally applicable to Finland's 1997 Northern Dimension Initiative (NDI), which has been mooted as a co-ordinating mechanism for existing organizations seeking to promote greater cooperation between the Nordic and Baltic countries and Russia. Perhaps the most distinctive feature of the NDI has been the scope of its ambition. Conceived as an instrument of EU rather than simply Finnish or regional policy, it has placed particular emphasis on the need to draw Russia more firmly into the current construction of a 'new' Europe. Indeed, in the words of one of the key 'region-builders' behind the project, the NDI represents 'an attempt to unify the whole [of] Europe instead of strengthening the old historical division…into Roman and Byzantine parts'. 2 Nearly ten years on from the inaugural session of the CBSS, this chapter assesses the nature and progress of attempts to build 'a cohesive Baltic region which would become a model of growth and stability-a “New Northern Europe”'. 3 Contrary to some of the claims emanating from this quarter, however, it will argue that there is some way to go before existing geopolitical categories in the region (East, West, Nordic) give way to a new expanded and unifying concept of 'northernness'.

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